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LATEST A new draft of the dossier has been published on the Iraq Inquiry Digest website. Read more on the Index on Censorship website.

This website is dedicated to telling the truth about the British government's September 2002 dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction - that it was, after all, "sexed-up" by the government's spin doctors. It uses contemporaneous documents, transcripts of oral evidence and freedom of information requests to reveal who really wrote the dossier, how it was "sexed-up" as a result and how the government covered-up the truth.

Who wrote the dossier?

Although the government still insists that the dossier was the pure work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and/or its chairman John Scarlett, the truth is that the government's spin doctors were heavily involved. It was initially placed in the hands of the CIC, Alastair Campbell's propaganda unit, and four spin doctors were later named as having been on the inside of the redrafting process in September 2002. They took part in the actual drafting of the dossier and the oversight meetings. It has now been established that one of them - John Williams of the Foreign Office - produced the first full draft. The claim that the JIC wrote and approved the dossier is a fabrication.

The Sexing-up

As a result of this and other spin doctor interference, the dossier was indeed "sexed-up", far more than anyone has realised. The intelligence was not wrong - it was misrepresented. The dossier's assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) went much further than the uncertain JIC assessments on which they were said to be based. In fact, the majority of the dossier's judgements were fabricated. They were not - as was implied - "key judgements" of the JIC.

How the dossier took Britain to war

The dossier was presented to the UK Parliament on 24 September 2002 by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, who falsely claimed that it represented the disclosure of JIC assessments. Although it has never been admitted, it was always intended to be the centrepiece of an "information campaign" to make the case for war - "to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein". As the British Ambassador to the US had told the Bush administration earlier that year, the UK "backed regime change but the plan had to be clever". The plan was to insist on the return of UN Inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction (WMD): "A refusal to admit UN inspectors, or their admission and subsequent likely frustration, which resulted in an appropriate finding by the Security Council could provide the justification for military action."

The inspectors were readmitted and suffered some minor obstruction but failed to find any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or any evidence that they were being produced. In spite of this and even without "an appropriate finding by the Security Council", the US and UK governments insisted on invading Iraq to "disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction". It is inconceivable that Britain would have gone to war on the basis that Iraq "probably" had WMD.

The Fallout

But when evidence of WMD was still not found, questions began to be asked in the UK about the government's claims that its intelligence had "established beyond doubt" that Iraq possessed them. A BBC reporter quoted an anonymous government source as revealing that the dossier had been "sexed-up" by the government's spin doctors and in particular that an already notorious claim that Iraq could launch WMD "within 45 minutes" had been inserted by them, in spite of the doubts of the intelligence community.

The Cover-up

The government's response was to bury the evidence of the spin doctors' involvement, to claim that the dossier was the pure work of Scarlett and/or the JIC and to deny responsibility for the 45 minutes claim. Tony Blair set the tone for the cover-up when he again misled the House of Commons in claiming that "the judgment about the so-called 45 minutes… was a judgment made by the Joint Intelligence Committee and by that committee alone." (Column 148)

A succession of establishment inquiries were carried out; the Foreign Affairs Committee; the Intelligence and Security Committee; the Hutton Inquiry (into the apparent suicide of the BBC's source, Dr David Kelly) and finally the Butler Review. In their findings, some expressed concern at the unequivocal nature of the claims made in the dossier but all believed the government's assertions that the dossier had been produced by Scarlett or the JIC and the government had not interfered with it. The dossier had not been deliberately "sexed-up".

But none of these inquiries realised the extent to which the spin doctors had been involved in drafting the dossier or the extent of the consequent sexing-up, largely because the government lied to cover it up. In fact, these inquiries explicitly based their finding that the dossier had not been sexed-up on their belief that the JIC was the author of the dossier. Because they were quite wrong about this, their findings are entirely worthless. This website provides the answers that the British establishment's inquiries were unable or unwilling to provide.

by Chris Ames last modified 2010-09-30 16:07

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